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Friday, April 27, 2012

How to install Windows 7

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE by aJ GAZMEN ツ GucciBeaR from flickr (CC-NC-ND)

Every couple of years I have to go through the painful process of installing whichever version of Windows is the most sensible. Currently that would be Windows 7 (don't touch Vista or Windows 8 unless you have to). Even if you got a computer with operating system preinstalled, nobody sells computers with operating systems preinstalled well, so that's something one has to do.

Getting started

  • First, get some Windows 7 DVD. The version you most likely want is 64-bit Ultimate edition, but if you have something else it's most likely not a big deal.
  • Gather all driver DVDs that were included with your computer. It's much easier than searching for driver online.
  • Since you will be doing dual boot, partition your disks sensibly. DO NOT CREATE SWAP PARTITION FOR LINUX !!! I'll elaborate in another post, let me just say that swap partitions - and swap in general - are an awful idea for every single kind of system these days - servers, desktops, laptops, phones - all of them work infinitely better without swap. We don't live in 1980s any more.
  • If you have a small SSD plus a second bigger disk like my machine, you'll need to consider this at a few points along the installation.
  • Now install Windows 7.
  • Get all driver dvds and install them one by one (usually in order - motherboard, gpu, the rest). Try to avoid installing any toolbars, antivirus software trials, and other bundled crap. It might be a good idea to download the most up to date drivers, especially for GPU.
  • And we're done. Nothing like a quick post. Oh wait, we're not? It turns out installing operating system is only step 1 of installing an operating system.

Installing software with Ninite

Funny thing, Windows comes without almost any software - and every time Microsoft tries to include anything like a video player or a web browser they have to fight antitrust trials, so no wonder they'd give up eventually. Meanwhile OSX and Linux typically come with huge amount of software for various tasks (and of various quality) included.

Now here's the trick. Do not download these programs individually. Double click Internet Explorer icon (you know you cannot go wrong with a sentence which starts like this), and go to website. There select all software you want to install, download a single installer, and run it. It will fetch and install everything you selected.

A few hints:
  • Skip everything by Adobe, use any other PDF reader.
  • Do not use winzip. Use 7zip.
  • No point installing trial versions of anything like Microsoft Office.
  • You don't need Silverlight, Air, QuickTime, iTunes and such crap. Trust me on that.
  • Between Pidgin and Skype all your IM needs will be covered, no need to install 10 different programs.
  • If you have multiple partitions, do not install Steam and similar program which are likely to take gigabytes of space via Ninite - it will install them on your root (I mean C:) partition without asking any questions, and you probably don't want that.
  • If you have any other special needs, you'll also need to install software manually.
Now a few things are not available from ninite. The most obvious one is probably virtual DVD drive software for running backups - something every other operating system has builtin.

snow day! by Cory Schmitz from flickr (CC-BY)

Optional SSD step

If you use multiple partitions (usually because of SSD) make sure you configure all programs likely to use too much diskspace to use your secondary disk.

That includes most obviously Steam (and similar software like Origin) - which you need to install to your secondary disk, and download managers like uTorrent (where you only need to change download folder in preferences). If you're planning to do big downloads with your browser, consider changing its default download location as well - for small short-lived things like PDFs and such it doesn't really make much difference.

Then turn off swap and other things that use ton of your diskspace for no good reason, or to slow your computer down. This is especially necessary if you use SSDs, but it's a good idea on just about any machine.
  • Right click on Computer > Properties > System Protection > Delete all restore points, then Turn off system protection and OK.
  • Computer > Properties > Advanced System Settings > Advanced > Performance > Advanced > Virtual Memory > No paging file
  • Start menu > type "cmd" > Right click "cmd" > Run as administrator > Type "powercfg -h off"
This will save you a ton of diskspace - usually somewhat more than your RAM - and in all likelihood make your computer a lot faster.


I've never seen any operating system with defaults which weren't totally insane, and Windows 7 is no exception. Here are just a few things I had to change before it reached more or less usable state.
  • Change keyboard setting to something sane in case your defaults (like in UK) are retarded.
  • Start menu > type "Folder options" > unselect "Hide extensions for known file types", "Hide protected operating system files"
  • Power Options > Put computer to sleep > Never
  • Start menu > type "Keyboard" > Repeat delay - "short"
  • Configure either Firefox or Chrome with all the relevant plugins and extensions. (I'll hopefully post about this soon)
  • Disable Windows security nonsense. If you have any clue what you're doing, it's just annoyance not protection. Start Menu > type "uac" > select "Never"
  • Right click on Taskbar: Taskbar buttons "Combine when taskbar is full"
  • Start menu > type "change system sounds" > No Sounds
I could probably go on, but that should deal with the most common issues.

At this point if you have Steam, and it's configured to use the right drive, feel free to start download of all the games you'll want to play. It will take some time.

Cleaning up

Once we're done it's time to clean up.

Now Ninite automatically refuses all toolbars, adware and related crap, and you're probably clueful enough to do the same, but something might have gotten through. Go to "Add or remove programs", and check that everything installed is something you wanted to install, not any bundled crap.

Then the last issue is every single program which starts automatically - in virtually every single case this is not what we want. Now you could try to do this manually in each program's configuration but it's much simpler and more reliable to run msconfig (Start menu > type "msconfig").

In msconfig turn off everything in "Startup" and everything in "Services" that's not by either Microsoft or driver manufacturers (and some of the stuff by driver manufacturers deserves to be turned off as well). This will cover about 95% of annoying autostarting programs and I've never had any problems with this.

Have fun with your Windows 7. In upcoming posts I'll coves Chrome, Firefox, and Kubuntu 12.04.

Avacyn Restored Sealed Simulator

wizard_hat_outtake_ by from flickr (CC-NC-ND)

All the usual websites will get that functionality eventually, but I got a little impatient and decided to write a little Sealed Simulator for Avacyn Restored before the prerelease.

The programming is pretty straightforward - it's a bit of jQuery plus a ton of code which every single language other than Javascript has in its Standard library already. If you want to see what some quick and dirty code I write looks like, help yourself.

Writing this simulator made me realize how little we know about what actually gets into boosters. We know there will be:
  • 1 card from rare sheet (7/8 rare, 1/8 mythic)
  • 3 uncommons
  • either 10 commons, or 9 commons and 1 foil
  • 1 basic land
Do we know what percentage of time there's a foil card in the booster? And what are rarity ratios of foil cards? That's what I've been told - I have no way to verify it, but it sounds plausible enough. And that's about it.

Things we don't know about boosters

One much more important thing is which commons and uncommons we're going to get.
If cards were chosen independently random, 55% of boosters in small set and 37% of boosters in large sets would contain duplicate common cards by birthday paradox. This happens almost 0% of the time.

Software simulators always use explicit deduplication to deal with this particular issue, and that's where they all stop (as far as I know, my simulator definitely does), but that's not how actual paper cards are printed.

Real world cards are printed into sheets in some specified order (the same card can appear on the sheet more than once, in different context, so it's not that regular - for example on the rare sheet each rare occurs twice and each mythic occurs once), cut into individual cards, and then mixed into boosters by some predefined method.

People attempt to figure out these "print runs" mostly so they can figure out how rares are printed - then they can buy a few boxes, open a few boosters which will have money rares and mythics in them (plus a few more boosters needed to figure that out) - and then sell the rest on ebay to unsuspecting players who will than receive various junk rares.

For Limited simulators rares don't matter all that much. Actually it does in that Limited played by taking completely random boosters, and Limited played by taking consecutive boosters from a box will have different statistics - but simulators can faithfully have the same distribution of rares as you'd get in Limited if you used truly random boosters, so it's close enough.

What matters the most for Limited is print runs of commons and uncommons. By taking commons entirely at random, the way all simulators do (except for deduplicating step) you get highly non-uniform distribution of colors - you'll very likely get ton of commons in some colors and very few in some other colors. This means that in simulated Sealed pools it's usually really easy to make very high quality deck with two colors which just happen to be most numerous, and some other colors are pretty much impossible to include other than as splash for a bomb.

Real paper Sealed tends to have more equal rates, so you're not so railroaded into colors. Maybe you can make about equally good RG werewolves and UW fliers deck from the same pool? This ambiguity is pretty common in paper and much less common on simulators.

How important it is? Honestly, I have no idea. I'd love to be able to do some math, and it's possible to model the method used by the simulators (we have the source code), but I don't have enough information to model paper boosters. I find it strange that WotC never wrote any articles about it (I duckduckwent them - there were really none), except mentioning a few major related screw ups they've done in remote past. Have they been secretive, or is there just not enough interest?

Another interesting question - and one which should be much easier to answer - does MTGO use print runs? We have tons of MTGO drafts recorded, if someone could simply get them together, and run simple statistics like % of commons by color in each booster we should be able to at least determine if they select them by uniform random methods or some other way, even if we don't know the particulars of that other way.

EDIT: I thought this only matters for Sealed not Draft (since you're getting 1-2 card from 8 different boosters anyway in each round, not 14 cards from 1 booster, so it should even out), but I've been told by people who draft Cube (which generally doesn't use print runs) that uniform randomness makes any kind of color signaling pretty much impossible. So it matters a hue deal, just for a different reason.